Jul 21

Bug Repellent Soap – A True Test

Gardening Jones shares how she accidentally tested out her new Flea Repellent Soap.

As many of you know, we recently began offering our handmade soaps for sale to the public. We began with the varieties our families and friends like the best, Coffee, Citrus, and of course Lavender.

Then we put it out to y'all on Facebook, to see if you would be interested in some of our other varieties, specifically the bug repellent soaps for people and flea and bug repellent for dogs.

Our friend Cheryl commented, referring to her dog: "... it doesn't matter what flea stuff I use on him he still gets fleas. The fleas here are a lot bigger than the fleas in the north too. Like gnat size or bigger, it is ridiculous. The heat is the culprit, it never gets cold enough to kill any thing."

So we took that as a challenge. Since the Don't Byte Me! soap we make for people can also be used on dogs who are smaller or have less of a flea issue, we decided to make a variety that can be used in cases where, as Cheryl further reports: " They can just about pick up Tucker and carry him away ha! I use front line and within days of application he has fleas again!"

Let me just back up a bit here and tell you that I am highly susceptible to bug bites. All I need do is step outside unprotected, and I get bitten. Of course, we have a soap to deal with that too. 😉

But in order to simply sit on the front porch and play a wee bit of music, I need to take preventative measures.

Not my husband.

Bugs don't like him. The mosquitoes will bite me and hover around the dog, but they leave him completely alone. Completely, and it has always been that way. Go figure.

Back to the soap. I recently made two small batches of a very strong bug repellent soap that I call Happy Puppy. It is much stronger than Don't Byte Me, heavy on the citronella to really keep fleas and other nasty biters away.

And even though the windows and front door were open all day, the entire house smelled of the scent as the extra moisture evaporated from the soaps. It smelled good mind you, but very strong.

Later in the evening himself returned home from work, and out to the porch to play a few tunes we went. That's when I saw something I had never seen before: a mosquito was flying around the back of his head. I looked over at the dog, no mosquitoes. I know they weren't buzzing around me. He swats the back of his neck and says "Let's go in, the mosquitoes must be real bad tonight."

There was not a bite on me, not one. And I realized why; I must have smelled strong of the soap after making it, and the scent must have carried on the dog as well. There weren't any bugs in the house either, not even after having the door open.

Now we just have to see if it can handle those fleas strong enough to carry a dog away. Tucker can be the judge.

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Jul 16

5 Good Reasons for Pruning Your Vegetables

Sure, you probably know that pruning fruit trees and vines helps to make them grow healthier and be more productive. Did you know the same can be said for your vegetable garden?

Gardening Jones shares some good reasons to do more pruning in your vegetable garden.

Pruned & Productive

Here are a few reasons why pruning can help you get more from your garden:

1. It improves air circulation around the plants, which makes them less likely to get or spread disease.

2. Pruning plants makes it easier to spot any disease they might get at an earlier stage. This will help you get a jump on treating the issue.

3. Likewise, pruning plants makes spotting pests much more likely. Early treatment means less damage.

4. It encourages plants to put their efforts into producing fruits not leaves. With most of what is in the garden, it's the fruit you're after. Pruning not only encourages more fruit set, but also helps them grow larger.

5. It helps with trellising. You can prune away the leaves that are not headed in the direction you want, making your vertically grown veggies more successful. As you know, growing up also prevents attacks by some critters.

Notes:
-Limit pruning to no more than 1/3 of the plant's leaves. Too much can send a plant into shock.
-If you are in a very hot area, don't prune so much that your fruit is subjected to scald from the sun.

Some mid-summer gardening tasks.

More on pruning vegetables.

Happy Gardening!

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Jul 15

Easy & Awesome Veggie Burgers

Gardening Jones shares an easy to make recipe for burgers that are not only tasty, but non-GMO, Gluten Free, and Vegan. You'd never know though.

4-5 Cups prepared veggies

1/2 cup Hodgson Mill's Sorghum w/ Quinoa & Brown Rice, prepared

2 Tbls. Flax Seed

1/4-1/2 Cup Potato Starch

We harvested 2 small beets, 3 new potatoes, 1 medium carrot, 1 onion top, and 1 very large kohlrabi from the garden. You can use whatever you have coming in, Soon, and likely for the rest of the summer, we will be using zucchini.

The kohlrabi and carrots were peeled and grated. The green onion was finely chopped and really was only there for color.

We cooked the beets and potatoes and when cooled, removed the beet skins and roughly chopped all.

In total it came to about 4 cups or so of veggies.

To this we added the remaining ingredients. We chose Hodgson Mill's Southwestern Style Sorghum, which is gluten free and non-GMO. It also has little salt and is cholesterol free. And tasty. Did we mention tasty?

The flax seed acts as a binder and as a substitute for an egg. It also adds a lot of Omega-3's and fiber. Bonus.

Use only as much potato starch as needed. It was very humid when we made this, so we needed the whole 1/2 cup.

We made 5 'burgers' out of this and chilled them on wax paper for about an hour.

Cook in a hot oiled skillet. If cooked on the grill we would suggest to do it in a pan, just in case.

Shown in the picture above are the steamed stems and leaves from the beets, more of the Sorghum, and some fresh fruit. There is just so much nutrition here it is amazing. And delicious.

Did we mention delicious?

6 Secrets to Growing Carrots
How to Grow Beets
15 Tips for Growing Potatoes

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Jul 09

13 Good-to-Know Tomato Facts

Gardening Jones shares a few things about tomatoes you may not already know.

1. Tomatoes are technically a fruit, not a vegetable as is often thought. I should say they are a fruit botanically, legally they are a vegetable. Zucchini are also botanically classified as fruit. I'm not sure of their legal status though.

2. Different sites vary, but it is thought that there are at least 10,000 and perhaps more than 25,000 varieties of tomatoes. It will take a while to try each one. Here are 15 varieties to get you started.

3. Tomatoes are most commonly red, but they can be green, yellow, orange, striped, pink, brown, purple, white, and black.

4. Tomatoes are often categorized by use: Slicing, which includes all the large varieties, Paste which includes romas and plums, and Snacking or Salad tomatoes including all small fruited and cherry types. Of course, they can all be used any way you want.

5. Tomatoes store longer if kept stem side down. You should never refrigerate an uncut tomato.

6. Generally speaking, the more blossoms in a cluster the smaller the fruit will be. Cherry types like the one shown above can easily have 10-12 flowers, whereas a roma might only produce 6 or so.

7. The tomato closest to the main stem will ripen first. Lucky bugger.

8. Tomatoes are about 95% water. That's the main reason squirrels go after them. Place a pan of water out for the squirrels, and you may save your tomatoes from damage.

9. Tomatoes are the most commonly grown edible in the garden. No surprise there.

10. Tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate types. Indeterminates produce over a longer period of time and tend to grow taller. For canning purposes many gardeners plant determinate varieties to get as much of the fruit in a short period of time as possible. Determinate plants will stop producing pretty suddenly. It's not your fault, they are just done.

11. Tomatoes are not self-pollinating as is often misunderstood, though they are self-fertile. This simply means they have both male and female parts on the same flower. There is no action the flower can take that will move that pollen though, they do need just a wee bit of help. Bees can do it, wind can, you can gently shake the plant, or use a tuning fork. Note this help from you is called hand-pollination.

12. Tomatoes may drop their flowers, cleverly called Blossom Drop, if conditions are not good for the plant. Often it is caused by extreme temperatures. We rarely get temps hot enough here for it to happen, but we have seen it in the greenhouse. That's where, by the way, we keep the tuning fork.

13. Probably the most common tomato problem is Blossom End Rot. This is caused by the plant's roots not being able to uptake sufficient calcium. This is highly preventable by planting tomatoes very deep or in a long trough, and/or by adding calcium to the soil. The easiest source of calcium would be Tums or the generic equivalent. If you get BER, you can try watering with diluted milk at the base of the plant. Often by the time you see it, the plant is already beginning to produce fruit that does not have BER, but it won't hurt to take precautions.

So there you have it. Did you know all 13?

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Jul 08

Minted Potatoes w/ Dipping Sauce

Gardening Jones shares a different take on vinegar chips using homegrown potatoes and fresh mint.New potatoes are just coming in here in our Zone 5/6-ish gardens.We're having fun finding interesting ways to enjoy them.

This is a take-off on the idea of vinegar flavored potato chips. It is much more fun to eat though because it has an interesting combination of spices.

Mint Vinegar Potato Fries

Cut potatoes into wedges and marinate for about 20-30 minutes in Mint Vinegar. You can use your favorite mint to make the vinegar, we recommend one that is more mild like a Silver Mint.

Drain the potatoes, keeping the used vinegar in a bowl, and pat dry.

In a skillet, or with a fryer, get your oil hot. For a fryer, follow the directions. For a skillet, add enough oil to cook one side of the fries.

Add the fries, and turn to cook both sides. Remove from oil and place back into the vinegar until you are done. Drain.

Curry Dipping Sauce

Add as much curry powder as you like to either sour cream or plain yogurt. Add some chopped fresh mint. Garnish with a sprinkle of curry powder.

These fries, or chips as the English say, are good both warm and at room temperature. They sure will get some attention!

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Jul 04

30 to 60

Gardening Jones shares some positive ways to help handle an unexpected life change.

My Vision Board of positive thoughts and inspirations.

I hit the ground running about a month ago, in an effort to make some positive life changes before my 60th. birthday. <-- This link talks about that.

And I did. Down 7 pounds and a few inches, feeling more physically fit and energetic, and sleeping better. I'm sure the diet and exercise changes were also having a positive impact on my medical numbers.

Then there was a brick wall, or so it seemed. About 10 days ago my job lost me.

I say it that way since I do feel it is more of a loss to them than to me. But I wasn't prepared for how deep that cut would really be.

Having something you poured your heart and soul into taken away from you was harder than I could imagine. It certainly wasn't a change that was a part of my original plan, and I was unprepared for it.

It was with the support of family, friends, and equaintances that I was able to keep everything together and move on. Quotes like "The best way to predict the future is to create it." helped a lot. And the belief so many of y'all expressed, that things were headed in a very positive direction, helped keep me strong.

So I've added a few things to the original list for the next 30 days. After all, I have the time. 😉

1. Meditate daily. Probably the best way to focus and free my mind up to new thoughts and a new direction. If something wonderful is headed my way, I want to be able to recognize it when it gets here.

2. Laugh every day. Whether by reading something funny or watching it, laughter heals the soul as well as the body. If I cry anymore, it should be from laughing so hard.

3. Change my environment. One of the first things I did was to rearrange the furniture in my bedroom. The physical effort felt so good, and the new look was a great start to a new life. I intend to do this to other areas of the house as well.

4. Get some direction. This kind of life change can lead to the feeling of being a boat adrift. To make that feeling go away, I have begun to put more attention into the soap making that I do. It is something I enjoy and it can't go to waste.
So why not, right?

If you have a favorite quote about empowering yourself, please leave it below. Together we can make our arsenals stronger.
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Jul 02

11 Edibles it’s Not Too Late to Plant

Gardening Jones looks at mid-summer planting in Zone 5/6.

 

Here in our Zone 5/6-ish gardens we can expect to see fall frost as early as the end of September, more likely in October. You can check your dates using your zip code here. Then look at the seed packets to find the Days to Maturity, and count backwards.

So assuming there is room, which one way or another there always is, what can still be planted?

  1. Peas and Beans. Look for the bush variety as these are likely determinate types. They will produce their main crop in a short period of time and be done. Perfect for when time is running out. Most varieties will be ready in about 50-60 days.
  2. Summer squash. Again there are a number of varieties that will produce in as little as 50 days. Soak the seeds overnight in compost teas such as Moo Poo Tea for even faster germination.
  3. Carrots. You can look for early types that are ready to harvest in just 50 days, baby carrots that also produce quickly, or just any carrot since they can take frosts. When mulched before the ground freezes, many gardeners can harvest carrots well into the winter months.
  4. Cucumbers. What? Yep, it's not too late. Most cucumbers will start producing fruit in less than 2 months. Sure your harvest will be less than if you planted sooner, but if a spot opens up, go for it.
  5. Radishes. Is it ever too late to plant these little buggers? Okay, yes, but barely. Even Daikons can be ready before the frost.
  6. Fresh greens can be planted now and even later in the summer. Many can handle cooler temps; spinach, kale, and mache in particular.
  7. Container crops such as Butterbush Squash can still be planted and covered if need be. This particular variety starts producing in 75 days, so there is still time.
  8. Broccoli Raab can be planted pretty much anytime all summer. It only takes about 6 weeks to mature, so have at it.
  9. Potatoes. Yep, there is still time. You'll start getting new potatoes in about 7-8 weeks. Let the plants go and harvest before frost hits.
  10. Fall crops, such as cabbage and broccoli can be planted now. A few frosts won't hurt them and can actually sweeten the flavor.
  11. Beets and turnips, two of my favorites, mature in about 40-55 days depending on variety. Tuck them in wherever you can find a spot. Yum!
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Jul 01

How to Make Zoodles

My husband Mandolin Jones used to say that "Two zucchini plants are at least one too many."  And I could see his point.
Sometimes I could see it all over the kitchen. 😉

Once I found this fun way to serve summer squash, he changed his mind.

Gardening Jones shares a fun way to serve summer squash.

We had heard of making curly fries from potatoes and sweet potatoes, then learned you can do the same thing with eggplant, summer squash, and butternut squash. Collectively the squash are known as Zoodles, since these pasta substitutes are most often made with zucchini.

After checking out a few YouTube videos demonstrating slicers, we chose this one by Paderno. It seemed to be the easiest and most reasonably priced for what we needed.

According to the directions included, you can also use it to slice and make curly cues from turnips, radishes, cabbage, apples and carrots. Hmm… pretty neat.

Once we got the hang of it, it did the job quick and is very easy to use.

Gardening Jones shares a fun way to serve summer squash.

Mandolin grabbed some of the first batch of yellow summer squash and added it to some sauteed garlic and roasted onion tops. He threw in baby spinach, fresh basil, a little salt and pepper and a dash of lemon juice.

Topped with some Parmesan cheese, it was lunch in a snap.

The rest of the squash curls went into the dehydrator to be used over the winter months.

No longer is Mandolin making fun of an excess of summer squash, Instead he now anxiously awaits that overabundance; something he never thought he would be doing.

More ways to use Zucchini on Pinterest.

Here's 11 more recipes featuring Zoodles.

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Jun 30

10 Random Gardening Tips

Gardening Jones shares a few tips to help your garden grow.

Mother nature's bar code.

1. Watering your garden in the early morning prevents moisture loss that can occur later in the hotter part of the day. It also helps prevent powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that thrive in high humidity levels. Similarly, mulch helps conserve moisture and prevent those nasty microorganisms from splashing up on the plants.

2. It's a myth that watering during the hotter part of the day causes scald on your plants.

3. Save space by planting garlic, leeks, and green onions in containers. They can easily be tucked in here and there and they help keep insects away. Bonus: If they produce scapes you get a pretty visual accent.

4. If you have an area you can dedicate to onions, try perennial aka Walking Onions. Plant them once, and you can harvest fresh green onions for life. Save that flavor by slowly roasting the chopped tops in an iron skillet. Store in a cool dry place.

5. Don't harvest all your veggies before the first fall frost, some actually like it. Cabbage, carrots, parsnips and kale taste better, sweeter, after a little frost. Brussel sprouts like hard frosts. Really. Check this out.

6. When transplanting tomatoes, plant them deep enough that the stem is covered with soil all the way up to the top set of leaves. "Bury them up to their necks." was what the local farmers told us.This helps them develop a better root system, which will take in more of the available nutrients and make for a healthier plant.

7. Use an old window screen resting on wooden horses to cure onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Be sure it is out of the elements and has plenty of air flow. For larger crops like we grow, an old screen door works great.

8.Don't throw out those sweet potato vines, they are highly nutritious. Cook the way you would spinach. Likewise, trim the onion tops, chop, roast, and grind into onion powder. Hey, that stuff in the store is pricey and not nearly as good.

9. When blanching vegetables to freeze or can, save the water. If you are just preparing a small batch, the cooled water is a great way to give your house plants a nutrient lift. For larger amounts save the water to later turn into soup base. Here's how to use your scraps to do just that.

10. It's better to under-water than over-water, so check the soil first. Stick your finger in up to your knuckle. If the soil isn't bone dry and the plant isn't wilting, wait. More plants have died from too much attention than the other way around.
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Jun 18

What Makes Oregano and Mints So Invasive?

Gardening Jones talks about Mint and it's relatives.

In most climates, mints and other members of the mint family, which include oregano and all the balms, are very invasive.

There are 2 reasons why:

1. This family's roots are called rhizomes, and they can and will travel quite a distance underground. Check them out in the pic above. They are so determined in fact, that mulching only makes them go farther.

2. They happily reseed themselves. We have found mints in many areas of the garden, even though ours are planted in containers. Allowed to flower, or bolt, depending on your point of view, the seeds can be carried by the wind and you may find mints and oregano all over the place.

So although they can be a handful, we will continue to grow a variety of mints and balms, albeit in containers, because their flavors are so worth it.

-Hamburgers with a little spicy sausage and fresh mint are out of this world.
-Homemade mint extract is way better than store bought.
-Use oregano as part of your homemade dry rubs, and it is an essential ingredient in Greek cooking.
-Balms are also great for cooking, such as Lemon Balm. Additionally they help attract bees to your garden, Bee Balm in particular.

Related Post: 6 Ways to Preserve Herbs

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